Melatonin is a hormone made by your brain that helps regulate your body's internal clock. Your levels of melatonin increase at night and decrease during the day. Some people find that taking melatonin supplements helps them to sleep better, especially if they are suffering from jet lag. Different people respond to different dosages, so it may take some experimenting to find the dose that works best for you.
Although studies have used doses of anywhere from .1 mg to 75 mg per night, most people take doses between .3 mg and 5 mg per night. To minimize the risk of daytime side effects, start with a low dose taken about an hour before bedtime and increase your dose every three days until you find the dose that helps you. Most people respond well to doses between 1 mg and 3 mg. Quick-release forms of melatonin supplements may work best for people with insomnia.
To help with jet lag, doses between .5 mg and 5 mg taken an hour before bedtime at your destination for approximately four days after arrival are common, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Sometimes people begin taking melatonin a day or two before traveling, rather than waiting until after they arrive at their new destination.
Although children often take doses up to 5 mg of melatonin to help them with sleep problems, the University of Maryland Medical Center recommends keeping doses around .3 mg per night, as doses above 1 mg have sometimes caused seizures in children under 15 years old. Speak with your child's doctor before giving your child melatonin to determine the recommended dose, if any.
Side Effects and Safety
Taking larger doses of melatonin can cause daytime drowsiness. Other side effects include headaches, sleepwalking, nightmares, vivid dreams, stomach cramps, dizziness, depression and nausea. If you are pregnant or have an autoimmune disorder you should not take melatonin. Melatonin may also interact with some medications, including those for depression and blood pressure, beta blockers, steroids, tamoxifen, benzodiazepines, blood-thinners and NSAIDs.